The year was 1969. I was going to very hip women’s college and was surrounded by beautiful young women with long flowing sun-streaked hair wearing fringed buckskin and surfer gear, sometimes together. Somehow they carried it off. Me, I got the notion that what I needed to make a fashion statement was some rich purple suede clogs.
Back then, clogs were just starting to be seen on American streets, and I had no idea where to buy them. But my college was just north of New York City, so I got my hands on a NY Yellow Pages and looked up clogs. There was one entry, for a store on 2nd Avenue, slightly uptown. I wrote down the address and on my next free day, I took the train into New York, caught a subway, then walked until I found the number on the side of a building.
At this point, my undaunted quest for cutting edge fashion hit a snag. I was standing outside a Scandinavian delicatessen. Hmm. But I had come a long way, so I plunged in and asked the man behind the counter if they sold clogs.
“Back room,” he responded, with a tilt of his head.
Too late to back out now: I went into the back room. There I was confronted with stacks and stacks of shoes boxes containing… clogs! Even purple suede ones!
These were my first pair, and I still wear clogs, though now they are Danskos, which are wonderfully comfortable. In fact, they are so well made, the leather on top tends to get old and stained long before the bottom of the clog wears out. So, now that I know how to paint and embellish shoes, I decided to do a rescue job on two favorite old pairs.
These are — were! — the red, oiled leather Dansko clogs I bought as a present for myself in 2003 when I published my first solo book, A Short Course in Kindness. I knew that if I painted them, they woulnd’t have that oiled-leather matte look anymore, but at least I’d be able to wear them outside the house!
I chose Angelus Leather Paint, since they have a nice true red called Scarlet Red, and I added just a little black to it. If you decide to try Angelus, be aware that they have their own prep and sealer solutions, and I don’t know if their paint would work as well with just the rubbing-alcohol prep and Pledge with Future sealer that is what we use with Lumiere paints.
Anyway, since these were oiled leather, I did have a concern that the oil in the leather would prevent the paint from adhering — but not so! Here are the results — which I’ve been wearing daily!
My next project was to do something interesting with an old pair of brown Dansko clogs that I’d gotten a great buy on years ago as seconds from an online store called Footprints (which still sells seconds — with microscopic flaws; they even have thirds sometimes if you call and ask).
Ever since I started doing shoes, I have wanted to try applying gold- or silver-leaf to them — and a very old pair of shoes is just the place to experiment. Destiny and I did a sample bit of leafing on a scrap of leather, let it dry, then bent it back and forth vigorously. No cracking or chipping! So I decided to try it.
I found some faux metallic leaf called Fashion Flakes and bought little bottles of Speedball metal leaf sealer and adhesive that go with it. When you are working with a porous surface (like leather), you paint on a coat of sealer first. Then you brush on adhesive, let it get tacky, then apply the metallic flakes.
This can get a little messy! I used tweezers to pull the larger flakes out of the packet and a sheet of computer paper underneath my work area to catch random flakes. Once all the flakes are placed on the adhesive, you take a soft brush and work the surface to remove any stray flakes. Then you apply a coat of sealer.
The metallic flakes come in gold, silver, copper and some combinations. The packet I chose was called Passion Ice Flakes, and the photo on the website showed that it had lots of dusky light purple flakes, but that wasn’t at all the case when it arrived. Still, I’m quite happy with the results.
One tip: It’s best to use the little bottles of adhesive and sealer pictured above, not the spray-on type. Also, I recommend the metallic flakes, not the metallic LEAF, which is best for flat surfaces — which shoes definitely are not! I bought my adhesive and sealer at Michaels, but you can no doubt find it online too.
Here’s closeup of the yummy surface — you can see how different the colors are from the colors shown inthe photo of the package, which I copied from the website where I purchased it.
Destiny and I are now working on a couple pairs of wedges where we’ve leafed the wedge itself. We’re submitting them to Altered Couture magazine next week. I’ll let you know if we get accepted! And either way, we’ll show them to you in a future post. Stay tuned!